The Segura Extension: M’s Add to Their Core

marc w · June 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners have signed SS Jean Segura to a 5-year, $70 million contract extension, per…everyone. This was even mentioned on the broadcast last night, so we’ve had a night to process this. A few days ago, the M’s were presumably having some hard discussions about whether to sell off pieces and go into a full-on rebuild. A winning streak and a deal like this one unequivocally signal that the M’s are not going to be doing that. Instead, they’re going to identify and build around players they think can be franchise cornerstones for a while. I don’t want to get too carried away here, but Segura was absolutely critical to the M’s future direction. As a player they got relatively cheaply and with a final arb year remaining for 2018, Segura may be the most valuable trading chip Jerry Dipoto held. Any rebuild would’ve needed to involve Segura, as Felix and Cano simply aren’t going to command high-impact prospects in return due to age and contract. On the other hand, if they wanted to keep him, signing an extension now makes the most sense.

Let’s not bury the lede here: the M’s got a fabulous deal. I understand Segura’s track record is an odd one, and that he’d have to take something of a discount given the fact that he was an abysmal hitter for two years, but *this* level of discount is stunning. The Mariners are essentially paying for four years of free agency, as Segura was already under contract for 2018. Dave’s post at Fangraphs estimates that he’d get somewhere around $10 million for 2018, making the extension into a 4-year, ~$60 million deal. As Dave notes, that sort of a deal is roughly equivalent to what flawed or limited vets like Josh Reddick and Mark Melancon signed this off-season. What about extensions for players under contract? Players with similar service time and a similar contract length include Brandon Belt, Danny Duffy, Dee Gordon, Sal Perez, Brandon Crawford, Andre Ethier and Felix Herandez’s first extension – the one he signed in 2010. Felix is perhaps in a different class, as a young ace, so we’ll set that one aside. Perez signed a 5-year, $50 million deal with the Royals, while Duffy signed a 5-year, $65 million deal. Those two are similar in age to Segura, and Duffy has the kind of spotty track record (largely due to injury) that’s somewhat similar to Segura’s. Crawford signed his deal with the Giants prior to 2016, when he was a bit older than Segura is, and coming off a similar jump in performance. Segura’s deal is larger than Crawford’s, but then Crawford’s included 2 years of arbitration, not just 1. The point here is that Segura’s extension is right in line with those given to similar players. None of these players was expected to be THE face of the franchise, and none of them were consistent all-stars at the time of their extensions – they’d put up all-star quality seasons, but also some less-than-stellar ones, too.

As such, these deals aren’t paying the players like superstars. They give the player a great deal of economic certainty while helping the club lock in a quality player long term. At an annual average value of $14 million, Segura needs to average something under 2 WAR per year for this to come out evenly. The M’s are getting a player who’s shown 5-WAR ability at shortstop for his age 28-32 years and paying roughly what the Royals gave Danny Duffy, who’s never thrown 180 IP, or what the Astros gave 30-year old Josh Reddick coming off a 1.2 WAR campaign. Let’s make some assumptions here: if Segura puts up 3 WAR in 2018, and then drops to 2.5 for 2019-20, then 2.0 and 1.5, he’ll accumulate 11.5 WAR over the length of this contract (2018-2022). That would mean the M’s would pay about $6 million per win from Segura, substantially below market rates. Focusing solely on his free agent years (2019-2022), a league-average Segura (which, given his position, would allow him to be a much lower than league average hitter) would generate millions in surplus value for the M’s. Depending on what you estimate the going rate for wins on the FA market is, and how it might grow between now and 2022, the discount Segura took here is either “steep” or “ridiculous.

There’s certainly risk on the M’s side as well, and Dave’s post at Fangraphs gives those a thorough examination. Segura’s currently sporting a BABIP of .395, which is driving his average up and making his offensive production look amazing despite a big drop in his slugging compared to 2016. By statcast, the kind of contact he’s produced this year would be expected to lead to a .310 wOBA, quite a bit different from the .370 mark he’s currently pushing. Then there’s the fact that for two full years, Segura was one of the worst hitters in the game. That’s why what we’ve seen thus far this year is so important: forget the results on contact, if Segura reverted to being a ground ball hitter with very little batted-ball authority, that’d be a huge warning sign. But he hasn’t – his GB rate is now lower than it was in 2016, and he’s putting up a great offensive season despite much *less* production on fly balls than last year. Yes, he’s been somewhat lucky on contact, but he looks much more like the 2016 Segura than the 2014-15 one. That’s important as we project what he can be over the life of this deal. Given that type of profile, he can put up a .310 wOBA or less and still make this deal look great.

There’s risk here, but at least to me, it’s dwarfed by the upside possibilities. Yes, Cano may block the M’s ability to move him off SS in the future (though Cano could presumably move to 1B at some point), the fact remains that the M’s needed to find a shortstop for the next several years, and their farm system sure as hell wasn’t going to provide one. Nearly all impact SS are already locked into long-term deals, and the ones that aren’t will be soon enough – the M’s weren’t going to get Carlos Correa/Francisco Lindor. The M’s have solved a very difficult problem here, and done so in a way that doesn’t hurt their ability to make further moves. When the M’s signed Cano, I noted that the M’s had tried player development and failed, and needed to do something else to fix their long-standing middle infield problems (years and years of Brendan Ryan and Jack Wilson and Ketel Marte). With this move, they lock in one of the best middle infield combinations in the game – they are now right there with Altuve/Correa in Houston. The M’s looked kind of rough in the medium term, but thanks to this signing, the work they need to do to create a contending team is a lot more manageable.

P.S. – Speaking of Cano, there’s another, less obvious, upshot to this extension. We are less than 2 years removed from Robinson Cano being named as the worst contract in MLB. Yes, yes, that was at a low point, and I assume Dave wouldn’t rank him there right now, but this was a deal he – and many others, I’m not picking on one of our founders here – was suspicious of from the start. I’d argue that not only is the Cano contract not a soul-sucking black hole anymore, but it’s been worth it. Already. Cano’s leadership and work with players like Segura is presumably one of the major reasons Segura was interested in an extension here. The sheer size of Cano’s deal made payroll flexibility a big issue – with Cano and Felix (and then Seager) tied up, would it prevent the M’s from signing other good players? With Segura signed, the answer is “obviously not.” In an era in which the partial sale of MLBAM gave all teams a windfall of cash, this is perhaps not a shock and due more to baseball economics than Cano’s own level of play, but it’s important all the same: one of the primary risks in the Cano signing seems pretty moot. If Cano never played for the M’s past this year, the $/WAR on his deal would be somewhat ugly, but he’d have given the M’s three very good seasons, an improved clubhouse culture, and assisted on getting the M’s an impact shortstop (I’m giving him credit for the work he did with Segura in the Dominican Republic before the 2016 season).


3 Responses to “The Segura Extension: M’s Add to Their Core”

  1. Grayfox3d on June 7th, 2017 4:27 pm

    Now to get Segura and Haniger back in the lineup could be a huge boost to this team, I can’t wait for the pitching to get healthy again.

    Baseball is so much more fun when your team is not going out there every night and floundering away games.

  2. Nick Rivers on June 7th, 2017 6:02 pm

    Great write up, best article about this signing I’ve read!

  3. stevemotivateir on June 8th, 2017 8:48 pm

    If they were to sell, it would be players with expiring contracts, such as Dyson, Cishek, and Valencia.

    But there was zero doubt that an extension for Segura was coming at some point, regardless of the team’s 2017 standings. There’s no internal options to replace him, and free agency offers little in way of SS’s for 2018 and 2019.

    The shock for me is the timing. I would have guessed an extension would come later in the season, or the offeseason. But I’m pleased to see it done!

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